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A Heritage Retained

by Geneva Politzer

During the mid-1800s, this graceful, rugged fishing vessel was a common sight on American waters. Today the sloop is enjoying a lively revival as a recreational boat. In this award-winning film, two artisans re-create the classic boat -- one using the old craft of hand shaping wood; the other using fiberglass and epoxy. Viewers meet Friendship sloop owners and watch spectacular racing sequences during an annual homecoming of the modern versions of this vessel. For anyone who loves sailing and appreciates the careful craftsmanship of a boat built by hand, this film promises a great adventure.

by David Seidman

This video is not so much concerned with the history of the Friendship sloop as it is with its future. In fact, very few of the video's 28 minutes are dedicated to the vessel’s past. What we are being shown here are the people who are building and sailing these boats today. As a study in contrasts (with surprising similarities), we are introduced to two builders: Ralph Stanley, who builds in wood, and Jarvis Newman, who works in fiberglass. Although they use vastly different technologies, both men share a common goal of producing Friendship sloops that will live on as testimonies to the boat's timeless style and their builder's care.

Ralph Stanley is charmingly understated in a typical "Down East" way. Shown at his yard in Southwest Harbor, Maine, he's a modest man equally at home with a fiddle or an adz. We watch as one of his boats take shape and see the care that he brings to this endeavor. What takes Ralph three months to do, Jarvis Newman does in three weeks. Using his own famous 1904 Dictator as a model, he now produces Friendship sloops in fiberglass. As we see him lay up a hull, he defends his role as a traditionalist. "The lines are so good that the only way to preserve them is to make the boats out of a material that will last a good long time -- fiberglass." Both he and Ralph Stanley are men in love with what they build.

We're also shown the people who sail these boats at one of their annual Homecoming Races. They're there for the challenge, traditions, and of course, for the friendships. As for me, the highlight of the video was the boats. I've heard a great deal about Friendship sloops, read articles, seen photos, studied drawings, and visited restorations at museums; but it was when I saw them under sail that I began to understand how they captured the hearts of the people who sailed them. To see a boat move is to know it. And that's what this video is all about.

by Shimon-Craig Van Collie

This prize-winning film, subtitled "A Heritage Retained", draws a picture as colorful as a down eastern accent. A number of the latter can be heard, including the voice of Maine’s Ralph Stanley, master boat-builder and fiddle player. The film chronicles Stanley as he builds a wooden version of this classic craft, which dates back to the mid-18OOs. Juxtaposed with him is Jarvis Newman, who uses fiberglass and modern technology to turn out Friendship sloops as well. We get to see both versions evolve from the keel on up to launching, a fascinating process in both mediums. The Friendship owners gather each year in Maine for a regatta. The characteristics that made the Friendship sloop a good fishing and lobstering boat are appreciated by the pleasure sailor as well. As Ralph Stanley puts it: "We’re saving history and enjoying it at the same time."

Jay Schwartz, Suffolk County Community College

From the 1850s to the end of the age of sail, Maine-built Friendship sloops plied the waters of New England. This program describes the resurgence of interest in these sturdy craft. Through interviews and old photos, the original uses of the sloops are outlined. The annual races in Friendship, Maine are featured and interviews with owners provide insights to the continuing popularity of these vessels. A comparison follows of building techniques in wood and fiberglass of modern-day recreations. An interesting and well-made program that captures a part of our nautical heritage.


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